My Funny Old Girl
We had to compromise. As my husband at the time was wont to say I "don't do tired well." My patience and tolerance for constant motion were the biggest problems for me - not only forcing myself into motion beyond when I wanted to be, but dealing with the visual input of a constantly moving puppy were sure ways to push my buttons. At the end of the day, when I needed to sit with a book, with my knitting, with some television before bed, after Crow had been run with the older dogs, and had as much real, hard playtime as I could provide between getting home at 3:30 and the pre-bed wind-down time at 9:00 or 9:30 p.m., I would try to grab a little bit of quiet relaxation, and Crow would try to convince me that really, truly, honestly, she hadn't had enough to do, and she was going to implode if she didn't get more playtime. I would stand firm in my position that we were done for the day, because I felt really done and I really needed to be done.
Crow wasn't buying it. But she would accept that the big games were over. Still, she'd pace and pick things up and look for something we could do together that would be acceptable to me, too. Crow wasn't a puppy who could easily amuse herself. Once we got Hudson, I quickly identified the difference in the challenge of raising the two of them. Crow was all about "Will you play with this with me? Play with me!" Hudson's approach, much easier on my nerves, was "Can I play with this? Give me something I can play with."
So, at the end of the day, when I'd said I was done playing, Crow would accept that there'd be no more chasing the ball (a game she could play for hours.) But, she'd look around the room for something to do, and eventually, she'd bring me a tiny piece of plastic that she'd chewed off of a plastic water bottle, or an almond shell she'd stolen from the bottom of the parrot's cage, or even a scrap of paper she'd filched from the trash. She'd roll it around in her mouth and drop it on my knee. I quickly learned that yes, I could read, I could knit, I could even follow a movie if I just flicked the tiny piece of offering off my knee. She'd run and retrieve it, roll it around in her mouth, chew it a little more, break it up a bit, and select a successively smaller and smaller piece with which to continue the game. It was our compromise. It worked. And she was so cute, rolling those tiny pieces around in her mouth, finding them with her tongue so she could spit them out into my hand or ono my knee, that she often succeeded in truly engaging me once again in the game.
Well, Crow is now 12 years old. And we've long since found the levels of activity that work perfectly for both of us. It's Sunday morning. The sun is out. Hudson's out lying in it. He can see us through the screen door, and we can see him. It's his version of a perfect morning. They've been fed. I've had my Sunday breakfast. And I'm having my second mug of coffee while I watch the news and go through e-mail. And The Crow was curled up at my feet, since long ago, we discovered that the best part about living together is simply being together. She is always at my side, and always wants to be on the same side of the door where I am.
Just a few minutes ago, a dog nose poked my hand, and I looked up to see Crow, still so lovely to me, meeting my eyes, and clearly rolling something small around in her mouth. She dropped it onto my knee - an almond shell she brought down from the parrots' room yesterday afternoon. Her incomparable eyes were shining, asking me if I remembered the game. So I flicked it across the room for her, and she came back and dropped it into my hand so I could set it up on my knee and launch it for her once again.
Every now and then, the smallest thing reveals that it can hold the whole of something else within it - the scent of someone grilling meat on a late spring afternoon can recall in its entirety a day spent in the backyard of my childhood with extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins there; the feel of icy air on the skin can bring back the taste of hot chocolate in front of the fire, after an evening of ice-skating, and so on. Little snippets that hold people and places and things in place in my heart can unexpectedly open the whole vista of my life to me. And just now, nothing more than the feel of the end of Crow's muzzle in my cupped hand as I waited to receive the wet and ever-smaller bit of her chosen toy recalled her entire life for me.
My funny old girl. Sometimes you have driven me to distraction. Sometimes you've exhausted me and all of my resources. Initially, you often made me wonder if you were in the right home. But ultimately, you've always patiently worked until you found the compromise that would work for us. Maybe that should have been my job, but you turned out to be better at it than I was. That gentle muzzle-nuzzle that said this was your part, could I do mine? My funny old girl. We've been perfect together.